Kaokoland… The ephemeral rivers in Namibia’s far northwest and the land between them are as fascinating as the different seasons. What you see is determined by the wind and the rain and the time of day. Whether you drive north to south or the other way. Whether you approach the Hoarusib from Sesfontein or Orupembe. Whether you drive to Purros from the north with the afternoon sun behind you or approach from the south with the sun in your face. Soft and golden in winter or with dramatic clouds to the east in summer. The picture you store in your memory will be of two different places. It can be so windy that the Hoanib is hidden in a veil of dust, with only the silhouettes of giraffes outlined in the riverbed. Or so hazy on the plains between the Khumib and the Kabere Mountains that the zebras look like moving rocks.
Text and Photographs Rièth van Schalkwyk
There is something about this part of Namibia that awakens the adventurer in travellers. Something that captures the imagination and does not let go. Perhaps it is driving for a day, often just on a track, with no other vehicle in sight, sometimes passing a remote or even deserted village or a Himba herdsman with a walking stick and his dog. Or is it the sheer beauty of the landscape with its multi-layered horizon, its ancient rock formations cracked and stratified to form dramatic graphic lines and textures? Can it be the surprise at finding water with birds and greenery, baby springbok and gemsbok calves in the desert, in the dry season?
We planned our itinerary to include the layered landscapes of the northwest, a glimpse of the four ephemeral rivers, a full moon, a dark moon, the magic of dark skies with brilliant stars and the Milky Way in all its glittering glory. Sunsets and sunrises over plains, campfires at dusk and nothing but the sound of owls at night and francolins at daybreak.
We like to think that there are few countries in the world where unspoilt nature is as easily accessible as in Namibia. It is often said that Windhoek is a city in the bush. Exit in any direction and look back after thirty minutes of driving: you will not see the city. That is if you don’t choose the highways.
Few departures are as satisfying as heading into the bush in a camper. Especially during the camping season, when there is a crispness in the air and the mountains have that almost opaque sheen as they have in watercolour paintings. The excitement of preparation and packing is addictive and starts weeks before the actual departure date.
My mission with this safari was to show my friends a part of Namibia that is indescribable. No matter how many times I have been back since my first safari more than 30 years ago. It looks different, and the same, every time. And it never made it easier to describe or photograph.